Difference between Mass and Weight

Difference between Mass and Weight


Weight is a force having a direction. We put this direction downwards. If a bag is too difficult to carry it is due to the gravity which is pulling it down so harder than we would like. 


The mass has no direction, and it refers to the amount of material measured in the account of how hard it attracts other objects via gravity or by how hard it is to accelerate. The bigger the mass, the harder it is (the bigger the force needed) to accelerate it.

Assumptions and results

From the days of  Kepler and Newton, it has been observed that the equal sizes of different objects were either easier or harder to lift (i.e. they had different weights). They called that property “weight“. Later, they came up with the ideology that for the same type of substance like iron or water, etc. the quantity of a substance was the factor that made it easier or harder to lift. They called the amount of the substance as it’s “mass“.

Static and dynamic measurements disclosed a fixed relationship between mass and weight (for objects near the earth’s surface), and accordingly, they constructed the formula, i.e.

F = ma

where F = weight, = mass, and a = acceleration due to “gravity”.

Differences between Weight and Mass

  1. Weight of our body or anything changes because it’s not the measure of us, but preferably a measure of the downward force of gravity exerted on our body. This is why we weigh less on the moon than on Earth while we weigh more on Jupiter and weigh nothing in space. The gravitational pull of certain areas is merely different, and that changes your weight. While we talk about weight in pounds (lb) or kilograms (kg), it should be measured in newtons (N), i.e. the standard unit for force.
  2. Mass, on the other hand, is constant. It is the total of all the matter that together forms or makes up a body. An object has the same mass wherever it is, regardless of the local gravity. Mass is represented in kilograms, which can also be converted to units like poundsouncesstones, etc.
  3. There is a common perception that weight and mass are fundamentally the same things, i.e. anything big will be interpreted as having a lot of weight, very heavy, and has got a lot of mass. Thereby we presume all accounting to the same thing.

But there is an essential contrast between the two. To simply put, mass is the amount of matter in an object. Whereas, weight is a force. Weight is the gravitational attraction that the object feels towards the earth’s centre.

Understanding the difference with the help of an example

Let’s consider a simple experiment to illustrate this difference.

We find it almost impossible to lift a car (or any other colossal object). Because its the weight(gravitational force acting on the object) that is pulling the object towards the earth makes it challenging to lift a car. But there is something else. The vehicle (or any object with mass) has inertia (Mass implies inertia).

Inertia means objects with mass tend to resist changes in their motion. When the car is pushed on a flat road, the force of gravity (weight) does not oppose the motion. Instead, the resistance felt is an indication of the car’s mass which determines its inertia. Inertia is the property of matter that means it tends to resist acceleration – the greater the mass, the less the acceleration for a given amount of force.

In short, the weight (gravitational force) opposes the upward lift of the object and mass. On the other hand, which has inertia, opposes the acceleration or the motion.

Differences between weight and mass in points

  1. Mass is a quantification of the amount of matter that something contains, while weight is the measurement of the gravity’s pull on an object.
  2. Mass is generally measured using a balance by comparing a specific amount of matter to another unknown amount of matter. Weight is measured on a scale.
  3. The mass of an object doesn’t change even if the location of that object changes. But weight, on the other hand, does change with location.
  4. The mass is universal, whereas weight is relative to gravity.

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